Deyan Sudjic, OBE
Director, Design Museum, London
Deyan Sudjic is Director of the Design Museum in London. His career has spanned journalism, teaching and writing. Deyan was director of Glasgow UK City of Architecture 1999 and in 2002 he was Director of the Venice Architecture Biennale. He was Editor of Domus Magazine from 2000 to 2004, and was Founding Editor of Blueprint Magazine from 1983 to 1996. Deyan has published many books on design and architecture, including The Language of Things (Penguin, 2008), B is for Bauhaus (Penguin 2014), and most recently book, The Language of Cities, published by Penguin in October 2016.
I interpret intuition in a couple of ways. One definition of intuition is knowing effortlessly what is right for a situation and what is not. It’s that definition that there’s no space between the eye, the brain, and the action. I used to be a magazine editor, and in those days I always felt that a magazine editor intuitively knows what is right for its readers, and what is right for the magazine, making choices of pictures or subject or writer or layout. That you can do that somehow in an intuitive zone of some kind. And then, after a while, perhaps you lose that, and then you should stop — when you’ve lost that sense of intuitively knowing what is right. Another version of what intuitive might be is that understanding of what Steve Jobs did with Apple, making equipment intuitive to use without a book of instructions. So to me those are two strands of what intuition might be: one is perhaps a more cerebral one, and the other is a more technical, operational one.
On designing the future
There’s a famous quote from Buckminster Fuller who once suggested that if you want to predict the future, design it yourself. And if you reflect, of course Steve Jobs did design the future, or at least his team did. When he launched the iPhone ten years ago, Jobs described it as a mobile phone with internet capacity and an updated ipod music player, but what he produced also made possible airbnb, uber, and tinder, which between them have changed the way we fall in love, live, travel, and understand the city. That was not necessarily part of what he thought the iPhone was going to be.
On the evolution of design
Design is partly about form giving, but it’s also about asking questions. It’s about observing behaviors, and then trying to synthesize all of those things into a process or an object or a system or an interface. The reason that design is interesting and important is that it keeps reconfiguring itself and it keeps being about different things. I wasn’t there at the time, but when we started the Design Museum in 1989, it was fundamentally about physical things. You’d tell the story of design through a collection of well-chosen chairs. You’d start with the best five from the 19th Century, and then you’d go through plywood and tubular steel and plastic, and maybe end up with the Aeron Chair. And of course people fill up to see chairs, but design is about a lot more than that now.
On physical objects
Design in the last years has switched from the material and physical world to the digital world. And of course that also does trigger opposite responses. So, though we live more and more in a sea of pixels, we also are seeing people hanker for the sense of tactility that a small magazine printed on paper provides; we also see that the vinyl record is back, and not only that, but Tom Hanks is now collecting typewriters; and people in the maker movement are remaking polaroid film. I think human beings have fundamental qualities, and some relationship with physical objects is among them.